By David Song , February 28 2019 —
Despite a tight first quarter, the University of Calgary Dinos imposed their will on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on Feb. 21, coming away with a 97–63 victory at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.
“I thought our defensive effort was pretty good,” Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren said. “We got a tremendous effort out of Max Eisele defensively and Mambi Diawara played a pretty complete basketball game. We had everyone contribute in some fashion and that’s what we need to have happen right now.”
The Huskies executed their game plan well in the first quarter, drawing several early fouls and leading the game for much of the opening frame. Fifth-year guard Lucas Mannes helped keep the score close with eight first-quarter points, including two three-pointers. The Dinos clawed their way to a 21–20 lead after 10 minutes of play.
“We thought our pace was too slow in the first quarter,” Vanhooren remarked. “We [needed] to make sure that our pace [was] quick and that we [were] making good decisions. That gave us a bit more offence.”
In the second quarter, the Huskies began to struggle with offensive fouls as many of their possessions ended in a charge or a travel. The Dinos went on a 13–3 run to break the game open, forcing 14 turnovers to go into halftime up 45–34. All-star guard Diawara began to heat up, ending the first half with 12 points and going 4-for-6 at the free throw line.
“I had a tough time [shooting] in the first quarter, but I just stayed aggressive,” recalled Diawara. “My teammates kept fuelling me and staying positive with me, so I made shots at the end and my teammates got open shots too.”
It was more of the same in the second half as the Dinos high-powered offence took control of the game. Diawara put up 26 points, collected five rebounds and added seven assists, including a nifty bounce pass to Carter Kuchinka in the low post for an easy bucket. Third-year guard Eisele performed well at both ends of the floor, scoring eight points and notching four steals. Meanwhile, starting centre Brett Layton contributed 11 points and five big blocks that fired up the home crowd.
“We always stay aggressive on the offensive side, and on the defensive side, we help each other out,” Eisele spoke of the Dinos’ effort. “We can trust each other, and that’s a big part of getting so many offensive fouls. Through playing great defence, we get easy buckets on offence.”
With a sizable lead in the fourth quarter, the Dinos emptied their bench. First- and second-year players like Kuchinka, Tobi Adelodun, Sasha Pojuzina and Andrew Milner held the line late in the game as they continued to stifle the Huskies’ offence en route to a decisive victory.
Eisele had high praise for the Dinos’ junior players.
“Our young guys are freaking amazing, personality-wise and skill-wise,” he said. “Some of those guys don’t even know how good they are. I’m really looking forward to the next two years because it’s going to be super fun with those kids.”
Guards Chan de Ciman and Lawrence Moore were two bright spots for the Huskies, scoring 19 and 14 points respectively. Despite being outmatched overall, Saskatchewan managed to win 22 of 28 offensive rebounds, which in turn led to 22 second-chance points against the Dinos defence.
“We can’t give up 22 offensive rebounds. That’s 22 possessions,” Vanhooren stated. “That tells you that our half-court defence was pretty solid, but we didn’t finish those plays when we did a good job [defending], so we’re going to have to look at our rotations and make sure that our rebounding is in a good position.”
“It’s never easy to repeat what we did last year, but guys are really confident,” Diawara said. “We’ve got our minds straight, going one game at a time. We’re just working hard and taking every game seriously.”
The Dinos won the second game of their series against the Huskies on Feb. 22 with a decisive score of 117–77. They go on to face the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in the Canada West Championship game on March 2 at 1 p.m in the Jack Simpson.